Not gory, not fleshy: last night’s salad
A call came in.
“Do you want a backbone?” asked my friend.
See, I am not missing a backbone, and never could have been accused of such: I’m pretty spiny (in more ways than one, especially if you rub me the wrong way). No. This call related to a pig’s backbone, as its owner didn’t know what to do with it. Apparently, a pig came her way (these things are known to happen if you live with your ear to the local food rail) and she got smart and called the itinerant animal killer/butcher to come over and help her out. He did, killing and hoisting that boy onto the branch of a tree. She took it from there, with one of her children holding the butchering book.
But I didn’t want a backbone. Backbone of poultry, backbone of beef, yes, I wouldn’t have said no. But pigs don’t make great stock, and that would be why I would need a backbone. (Maybe I can smoke it, then use parts to flavor bean dishes. Hmm.)
“Do you have any meat you don’t want, or fat? Or the head? That, that I could deal with,” I said.
Jonathan Safran Foer has a nonfiction book out now called Eating Animals. I have never been able to stomach his fiction, but he’s a clearer, less annoying voice when he’s researching things and telling stories from his life. A vegetarian who’s wavered between carnivory and veganism, this book prods us to think about what it is that we DO eat. One of the more outlandish outtakes that’s been covered in the media is his questioning our taboo of pet flesh. (I would throw horse in there too: there are peoples all over the world who eat pets AND horses, as you might know.) For the most part, though, the book is a look at the meat industry, and how it has accomplished its highest goal: keeping us away from knowing what it is we eat. Keeping us blissfully ignorant, in fact; the average American consumes 21,000 animals in his or her lifetime. (How so many, you ask? Ground beef in your burgers is how: there could be up to 400 individuals in your patty.)
As a new-ish returned carnivore (two years this month, all due to producing my own meat) I obviously have very strong opinions on this issue. My reason for 16 years of vegetarianism is that I could not be ignorant, no matter how hard I tried. No, it was too cruel, eating meat from factory farms; it wasn’t who I was, or am. But I am not blind to the way my own animals live and die, and I can easily eat those of the beef and pig farmers I know.
That’s all it’s about. Being a little less cruel. Being a little more open-eyed to the reality of our food. And being game when backbones come your way.